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Democrats battle over the 2024 nomination calendar as Biden weighs options

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New Hampshire’s Republican governor considers Nevada’s bid to become the nation’s first presidential primary state a joke. Nevada’s top Democratic agent warns against a major state like Michigan leaping to the forefront. And Kingmaker James E. Clyburn (D) of South Carolina has expressed support for replacing Iowa.

But with just days left before the Democrats meet on Dec. 1 to determine their presidential nomination order, it remains unclear what the calendar will look like. The most important voice in Democratic politics, that of President Biden, has yet to weigh in, and many members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee responsible for deciding the outcome remain awaiting word from the White House.

That has left an increasingly unruly void, with competing states shelling each other publicly and privately as they grapple for position awaiting a decision that could ultimately reshape the petri dish from which Democratic presidents emerge. The fight, which should be resolved according to a three-day meeting in Washington, now revolves around three big questions, several people involved in the process said, stressing that the outcome remains completely uncertain.

Will Nevada or New Hampshire be blessed with first place? Will Michigan or Minnesota, fresh from huge Democratic electoral victories, be selected as the Midwestern replacement for the unfavorable Iowa primary? And will a fifth state be added to the pre-Super Tuesday window?

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) of New Hampshire is pretty sure the Democrats are coming for his state’s first primary, and says there’s no chance they will succeed. New Hampshire state law requires the secretary of state to set the primary date seven days early, and Sununu says it will happen regardless of what Biden wants, potentially forcing Democratic candidates to choose between ignoring the state and facing punishment of their party.

“Nevada wants to go first? Can we all have a good laugh about that? They’re still counting damn votes,” Sununu said in an interview a week after the midterm elections. “This isn’t something – ‘I get it because I want it’, like a petulant child. You have to earn it with high turnout, transparency, results, quick access to winners and when to do a recount – we did four recounts yesterday – boom, done.

He warned that if Democrats blacken the state’s primary, New Hampshire voters will remember in the general election, jeopardizing the state’s four electoral votes that Biden won in 2020. , you know, insinuating that we’re not doing it right he said.

Rebecca Lambe, the former chief political strategist for the late Democratic Senator Harry M. Reid of Nevada, snapped back that Democrats shouldn’t listen to Republicans’ opinions as they try to diversify the early primary process. She has argued that Nevada should go first, and warned against big, expensive states leaping to the forefront.

“I don’t think the DNC should take their advice on this from a Republican governor who wants to run for president against Joe Biden,” Lambe said, before turning against New Hampshire’s bid to go first. “They have some of the worst, most restrictive voting laws in the country. They don’t have an early vote, no postal vote, and they’ve made it a lot harder for students to vote.”

Michigan and Minnesota, meanwhile, are embroiled in their own behind-the-scenes battle over which Midwestern state is best suited to replace Iowa, a move top Democratic advisers have indicated they want to take.

Democrats in both states won trifecta control of the state’s governor and legislature during the midterm elections — even as Nevada lost its Democratic governor. That allows Democratic state leaders to set dates for their states if the party chooses to push them forward — either by coming up with separate dates for Democrats and Republicans, or by forcing Republicans to choose their party’s own primary schedule. violating, leaving Iowa’s order unchanged for 2016. , New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

“Both states now clearly have a path to get this done,” said Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labour Party chairman Ken Martin. “We’re going to have a tough discussion in the coming weeks.”

Michigan Democrats, seen by some committee members as a frontrunner for Midwestern Iowa’s replacement ahead of the midterm elections, remain optimistic about their own prospects.

“Michigan is a purple state for Republicans and Democrats and we need states in that early window that reflect the diversity of our country and will begin to build the infrastructure for our general election,” said Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich. ).

Some South Carolina Democrats worry that Michigan — which was awarded 125 pledged delegates in 2020, more than New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina combined — will enter the early window, fearing that the large delegation of delegates will force candidates to run for the largest spend part of their time campaigning there.

“We’ve always put smaller states on the pre-window calendar and we’ve done that for good reasons,” said Carol Fowler, a member of the South Carolina Rules and Bylaws Committee. “If Michigan had been an early state, I’m not sure President Carter would ever have been president. I think Barack Obama benefited from having small states up front. I think it’s so helpful for a good strong candidate who isn’t well funded yet.

Fowler said her animosity was not directed specifically at Michigan, but rather at broader concerns about a major state seeking to move up the ranks.

“I will give full consideration to every state that has signed up, but I have not yet seen a reason to support a major state,” she said.

But Clyburn, the dean of South Carolina Democrats and a close ally of Biden, said he would not oppose Michigan’s bid to enter the pre-window as long as it avoids South Carolina and other southern states voting on Super Tuesday. not overshadow.

“If it’s Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan, that’s almost ideal for me,” he said, though he cautioned that New Hampshire’s law could hinder efforts to put it behind Nevada. He said he was also open to New Hampshire and Nevada on the same day, something Sununu has ruled out.

Clyburn said he has not discussed the calendar with Biden, but when asked if he intended to do so, he said: “I reserve comment.”

Iowa, pushed into a defensive position, continues to petition for a role in the early trial. Scott Brennan, a member of the Iowa Rules and Bylaws Committee, said the process for revising the calendar had been “clumsy and a little surprising” so far, given the success of Democratic presidential candidates who have run in every election since 2008. won the popular vote. using the current system.

“At least with respect to Iowa, there is no other candidate from the Midwest pool that meets what has always been the requirement, which is a state that is accessible to candidates who don’t start the process with $1 billion,” he said. “The other Midwest candidates are too big, too unwieldy and way too expensive, and the committee members know that.”

Senior Democrats began meeting publicly in March to discuss the revision of the nomination calendar, after top Biden advisers expressed displeasure with the caucuses in Iowa, a largely white state that shunned Biden’s campaign and struggled to determine the results. to be counted in 2020. Democrats have said they were concerned about the amount of money and effort Democrats were spending in a state that has become less competitive in general elections.

Party officials approved guidelines for updating the calendar that would prioritize states that commit to holding primary elections, demonstrate overall election competitiveness and are demographically diverse.

The full DNC also passed rules this year that allow the party’s chairman to “take appropriate action” against both candidates and state parties who fail to adhere to the official primary calendar. That could include removing state delegates from the Democratic convention and barring candidates whose names appear on state ballots from accessing nomination debates or party data.

Whether those penalties come into play will largely depend on the calendar that is drawn up. A White House spokesperson declined to comment on this article. But some of the comments, whether made public or private, are likely to come from Biden’s inner circle soon.

“Everyone is still waiting for the smoke signal from the White House,” said a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, who, like some others, spoke on condition of anonymity for deliberations for this story.

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